We’ve all been star struck once or twice. It happens to the best of us. But being star struck by your new boss? Jalen Mills found himself in that spot during his first trip to Gillette Stadium.
Mills, who agreed to a four-year, $24 million contract with the Patriots last week, made his first trip to Gillette Stadium in order to sign his contract and take place in initial meetings. That also included his first interaction with Bill Belichick, who Mills told reporters on Monday he’s “been watching before I started taking football serious.” He also called the chance to be coached by Belichick a “huge” draw for him when making his choice in free agency. “Being coached by coach Belichick. I mean that that goes – I don’t even really have to speak too much about that,” he noted.
The introduction wasn’t as official as you might expect. “I was talking to the nutritionist in the cafeteria,” Mills recalled, “and I’m about to walk out of the cafeteria and I just heard ‘hey Jalen.’ So I turned around and it’s coach.”
Initially, Mills did his best to keep his cool. “In my mind, I’m saying, ‘OK, this is coach,’ but it really didn’t click that it was coach Belichick.”
But eventually, the emotions broke through. “He’s just talking to me, telling me, ‘happy to have you here, excited for you to be here,'” Mills described, “and I literally turned my back to him and I screamed out loud ‘this is this is Coach Belichick!’ Excuse, my language, but ‘this is f***ing Coach Belichick!’ Like, I screamed it loud.”
Bill Belichick is famous for not being easily phased. A player screaming expletives in the cafeteria? No problem.
“I screamed it loud and then I turned back around and he was just like, monotone, like regular just still having a casual conversation with me when I’m freaking out,” Mills claims.
Still, he wasn’t quite done with his fanboy moment. According to his telling of the story, Mills turned back around and said “‘Coach one more thing. I’ve got to cut you off. I don’t want to disrespect you. Coach you’re a legend to me, I’m happy to be here.’
Once again, there was a calm, measured response from Belichick. “Happy for you to be here,” was his response, according to Mills.
“He didn’t even flinch,” Mills said. “He didn’t even change his vocal tone. Like he was used to it.”
Mills’ reverence for Belichick and the Patriots’ defenses historically may go beyond his amusing story, and could have a practical impact. At one point in the interview, Mills was asked about comparisons between him and Patrick Chung, who announced his retirement last week.
“P Chung? He’s a guy who’s been doing it for a long time,” Mills exclaimed. “We’re talking about playing multiple positions – that guy is one of the definitions of it. You guys have seen him, whether he was lined up on running backs, whether he was lining up on tight ends, it didn’t matter, they had him all over the place. That guy was very versatile, I have a lot of respect for him in this game and what he’s done in this organization.”
Following Chung’s retirement announcement, many have pointed to Mills as a logical replacement. His positional versatility and willingness as a tackler make him a logical fit schematically. If he’s studied Chung in the past, it could give him even more of a leg up for the job when training camp begins.
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Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at abarth@985TheSportsHub.com.